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On a crowded bus at midday, Raymond Queneau observes one man accusing another of jostling him deliberately. When a seat is vacated, the first man appropriates it. Later, in another part of town, Queneau sees the man being advised by a friend to sew another button on his overcoat. Exercises in Style retells this apparently unexceptional tale ninety- nine times, employing the sonnet and the alexandrine, “Ze Frrench” and “Cockney”, while an “Abusive” chapter heartily deplores the events.
When Exercises in Style first appeared in French in 1947, it led to Queneau’s election to the highly prestigious Académie Goncourt. This virtuoso set of themes and variations is a linguistic rust-remover, a guide to literary forms, a demonstration of the use of imagery and expletive. But it is far too funny to be merely a pedantic thesis.
The late Raymond Queneau, novelist, poet, mathematician and editor, once told Barbara Wright that of all his books, this was the one he most wished to see translated. He rendered her his “heartiest congratulations”, adding: “I have always thought that nothing is untranslatable. Here is new proof. And it is accomplished with all the intended humour. It has not only linguistic knowledge and ingenuity, it has that.”
Exercices de style (French, transcript, 1947), HTML.
Exercises in Style (English, excerpt, trans. Barbara Wright, 1958)
Stilübungen (German, trans. Ludwig Harig and Eugen Helmlé, 1964), Typographic interpretation by Eike Rupp (2008).
Esercizi di stile (Italian, transcript, trans. Umberto Eco, 1983)
Ασκήσεις ύφους (Greek, trans. Achilleas Kyriakides, 1984)
Stylistická cvičení (Czech, excerpt, transcript, trans. Patrik Ouředník, 1985)
Ejercicios de estilo (Spanish, trans. Antonio Fernández Ferrer, 1989)
Exercicios de estilo (Portuguese, trans. Luiz Resende, 1995)
Упражнения в стиле (Russian, transcript,V.A.Petrov et al., 1998)
Styluebige (Züritüütsch, audio excerpt, trans. Felix E. Wyss, 2004)
Ćwiczenia stylistyczne (Polish, trans. Jan Gondowicz, 2005)
Exerciţii de stil (Romanian, trans. Romulus Bucur, Luminiţa Boază and Irina Grădinariu, 2006)
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